Alison McIndoe, 50, of Lancaster, interior designer and founder of AK Interiors and The Shoppe at AK Interiors.
As a young girl, Alison McIndoe watched enthralled as her aunt and uncle pored over floor plans and samples while renovating their homes.
“I was fascinated with the details and how it all fit together much like a puzzle,” she recalls.
That fascination carried over to her own little corner of the world — her bedroom — where her parents gave her the freedom to redecorate.
“I was always rearranging my furniture,” she says.
McIndoe chose her own bedding from the JCPenney catalog, then painted and stenciled the walls to coordinate.
And she hasn’t stopped since.
For the past 24 years, McIndoe has been solving the design puzzle for clients as the principal of AK Interiors, a Lancaster design firm specializing in both residential and commercial spaces.
With headquarters at 246 W. Orange St., AK Interiors has a design studio on the second floor and a shop on the first floor that carries boutique home furnishings, accessories and gifts.
Her proudest career moment, she says, was completing the design and general contracting for Checker’s Bistro when it moved from its downtown location to Champion Forge.
But residential work holds a special place in her heart.
“I love the honor of working in people’s homes,” McIndoe says. “That’s such a personal thing to be invited into people’s homes where they make memories with their family.”
Her favorite room: Ellery’s bedroom
McIndoe’s hobby is checking out real estate, but she wasn’t really looking to move when she spotted a stone Cape Cod home on a quiet street in School Lane Hills six years ago.
It was love at first sight.
“I wanted something I could put my stamp on, rather than something that was ready to move into,” she says.
McIndoe has been putting her stamp on the home ever since, opening up a staircase, converting a bedroom to a first-floor laundry room/mudroom, redoing a bathroom and plotting a future redesign and relocation of the kitchen.
But her favorite room is the one she just completed for the newest member of the family: daughter Ellery, 5, whom she adopted from China in November.
A single mother with a grown son, Cole, 19, McIndoe decided some time ago that she wasn’t finished being a mom. And Ellery needed one.
Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a contracture of the joints that makes it difficult to use her arms and hands, Ellery had lived her whole life in an orphanage in Wenling City, a southeast coastal city in China’s Zhejiang province.
Ellery’s adoption was a 14-month process, so McIndoe had time to think about how she would make her daughter’s very first bedroom special.
“I didn’t want to start it too soon,” she says. “I didn’t want to jinx myself.”
She had two goals in mind: To create a room that was all girl, and one that wove together pieces of both Ellery’s heritage and that of her new family.
She accomplished most of that with the room’s most dramatic design element: bright, watermelon pink-and-white chinoiserie wallpaper. Made by the company Thibaut, the pattern is “South Seas,” a nod to Ellery’s roots.
“I’ve always loved that wallpaper, so when I found out I was having a little girl I knew that was the one I wanted,” McIndoe says.
A child-size round table and chairs gives Ellery a cozy place just her size to read from the selection of books in her room, including the picture book “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes,” about a mother who adopts a baby from China.
Large windows make the small room bright and sunny, along with airy white French-knot curtains that gently puddle at the floor, white bedding on a classic metal canopy bed, and Ellery’s name spelled in large white letters along the windowsill.
As for bits of Ellery’s new family history, there are plenty.
“I tend to like things that have a sense of history or a little bit of story to it,” McIndoe says. “I’m nostalgic by nature.”
So Ellery has a connection with her adoptive great-grandmother and great-great-aunt whenever she looks at the decorative pins in a glass treasure box on her nightstand or the antique gloves and scarves in a vintage box on her dresser. That dresser, by the way, belonged to McIndoe’s mother.
Family photos of McIndoe’s late father and grandmother, as well as big brother Cole as a baby, decorate matching painted wood nightstands with antique mirror insets. And on the wall: a framed christening gown worn by McIndoe’s grandfather.
Ellery’s new room is a reminder of her past and her present. In the future, maybe she’ll put her own stamp on it, just like her mom.
“It is a small room,” McIndoe says, “but it’s packed with personality, just like my daughter.”